Being a successful landlord can be relatively straightforward, if you put in place adequate reference checks, get the right level of landlord insurance, and make sure you have a watertight tenancy agreement.
There’s more to it than simply handing over the keys and leaving your tenants to it, though, so how do your rights measure up against theirs?
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We’ve picked out five key considerations, including switching energy suppliers, changing the decor, keeping pets, indulging in illegal substances, and running a business from home.
Whatever your stance on any of these things, communication is key. Make sure your tenants are made aware of the rules – in the lease agreement and during the course of the tenancy if needs be.
1. Can tenants switch energy suppliers?
If your tenants are paying the bills, they have the power to switch energy suppliers. Like lots of other householders, many will want to take the time to shop around so they can find a cheaper fixed tariff. And some may be interested in finding an energy supplier that uses renewable energy sources.
However, you may want your tenancy agreement to include a clause requiring your tenants to tell you if they switch. You can also include a ‘preferred supplier’ clause stating which energy supplier you ideally want them to use, but you can’t enforce this if they want to get their energy from elsewhere.
According to Ofgem, you can ensure you have control over which energy company supplies your rented property if you’re directly responsible for paying the bills. This may be where you:
- pay the energy provider directly and reclaim the cost from your tenants
- include energy bills with the rent you charge your tenants
- take on responsibility for the energy supply between tenancies
You may get discounts on other products and services if a company like British Gas, for example, supplies the gas and electricity to your property – it’s worth finding out.
2. Can tenants redecorate my rental property?
You may, as most landlords do, prefer your tenants not to try out their interior design skills on your property.
After all, at the end of the lease term they may well decide to move on and leave you with decor that may have suited their personal taste perfectly, but which is difficult to market to new tenants.
However, if your property was less than perfect when they moved in, a lick of paint or a few replaced fixtures could be a good thing. Just make sure you work out what you’re comfortable with, set the ground rules, and explain them very clearly to your tenants.
If you allow good tenants to make the place feel like home, maybe they’ll be inclined to hang around and renew the lease.
3. Can tenants move their pets in?
There are obvious drawbacks to allowing your tenants’ pets to tag along when you rent out your property – from doggy odours, to fleas, to chewed fixtures and furnishings, to barking at all hours.
On the other hand, a tenant who keeps a pet has taken on a responsibility to care for another living being, which could be a good sign as to the way they’ll treat your property.
And with so many landlords refusing renters with pets, they may struggle to find a place, so it’s a fairly safe bet they’ll be interested in making your rented property a longer-term home.
However, if you’re not ok with your tenants keeping pets, make sure the rules are very clearly stated in the lease. You may also want to mention it in person.
If it’s wear and tear you’re worried about, don’t forget you have the option to charge a higher deposit to cover any potential pet-related damage.
4. Can tenants smoke cannabis in my rental property?
While you’ve no right to manage your tenants’ day-to-day living arrangements, some things are never acceptable.
Cannabis is illegal in the UK, and anyone smoking it in your property will be breaking the law. There’s usually a specific clause in a rental contract explicitly stating that tenants must not consume illegal substances in a rental property.
In fact, most tenancy agreements prohibit smoking of any kind. As the landlord, you can decide whether you want to allow tenants to smoke cigarettes in your property, but not cannabis.
Annual or six-monthly property visits are a good way for you or your letting agent to check they’re sticking to the rules.
5. Can tenants run a business from my rental property?
It’s not against the law for your tenants to run a business from your rental property. However, it’s important they tell you they’re doing it, as you may need to get permission from your mortgage provider and/or freeholder if you’re a leaseholder.
It’s also worth considering the nature of the business they want to run from your property, and whether that could negatively impact other residents of the street or building.
Read our article for more information about tenants running a business from your rental property.
Have you learned any landlord lessons through your experiences of dealing with the questions above? Let us know in the comments below.